Larry Krasner, Philadelphia’s new district attorney, has been in office just a week.
But Black Lives Matter activists, who supported his campaign, haven’t wasted any time in demanding that he deliver the progressive change he promised.
About a dozen activists rallied outside Krasner’s Center City office Tuesday afternoon to call for the exoneration and release of Eric “Man” Riddick, who has been in prison for 26 years for the 1991 murder of a Southwest Philly man.
Police and prosecutors for years have ignored evidence that proves his innocence, his mother Christine Riddick said.
“I want my son home. My daughter-in-law wants her husband home. It’s been 26 years and four months, and I’m tired of counting,” she said, as she hugged a thick packet of paperwork about her son’s case that she wanted to deliver to Krasner. “I’m asking, I’m praying, I’m hoping, I’m begging that the district attorney will look at the facts of my son’s case and see what we’ve known for 26 years.”
Activists held signs and chanted “No justice, no peace” and other slogans as they tried to deliver the packet.
“We have a package for Larry Krasner, the district attorney that black and brown people got elected. It’s time to pay up. We’re here!” BLM organizer Asa Khalif shouted into a megaphone. “You ran on progressive change. We’re holding you to it. We want Eric Riddick released immediately.”
But if the activists thought their efforts to help get Krasner elected would get them an all-access pass to his office, they learned Tuesday that’s not how things work.
A metal barricade snaked along the sidewalk, blocking the doors, while several stony-faced police officers stood guard and civil-affairs officers monitored the situation.
“All we want to do is enter a public building, which is our right to do, to deliver a message and a package to the new district attorney, the progressive district attorney,” Khalif shouted. “We’re gonna wait, and tell the person to please hurry, because we don’t have all day. We got bills to pay.”
Khalif called and texted Krasner, whom he calls a “personal friend.” But Krasner didn’t respond. It’s unclear if he was at his office during the protest.
“Jesus will be here by the time they get here,” Khalif joked.
Still, he admitted he found the tight security surprising.
“Every time we come to ask for transparency, apparently, we’re met with aggression and a show of force by police,” he said. “And that’s very disturbing. This is a progressive administration. I’m very surprised we’re met with this much aggression, to be honest.”
After a half hour, Krasner’s spokesman Ben Waxman ventured outside.
Thanking him, Christine Riddick said, “I’m glad you came down so we didn’t have to lay in the street and act crazy.”
Waxman greeted the activists at the metal barricade as if it were their first encounter.
He accepted the packet and left, as Khalif laughed into his megaphone: “I thought we were friends, but OK. Good to see you too, Ben. Couldn’t get enough of me during the campaign, and now you act like you don’t know me!”
Reached by phone later, Waxman declined to say whether Krasner would review Riddick’s conviction.
“Obviously, we’re going to take a look at what he gave us,” Waxman said of the packet of paperwork.
If they get no answer soon, the activists vowed they’ll be back.
“Mission accomplished — today,” Christine Riddick said. “But we’re not sleeping … We’ll be out here again. We will give what we consider reasonable time for some movement to happen in my son’s case. But we will be out here, rain, sleet, or snow, making sure my son’s case is on (Krasner’s) agenda, and justice is on his agenda for others that are incarcerated unjustly.”
Dana Baker-Riddick was a childhood friend who married Eric Riddick five years ago.
“Why is my husband still incarcerated?” she said. “He spent 26 years of his life in prison. He missed everything. How am I supposed to feel justice? How are we supposed to move forward?
“My thing today is, just to Larry Krasner as the new district attorney: You want the change? Bring my husband home. Let him out. He (Krasner) holds the key.”
Eric Riddick was sentenced to life behind bars for the Nov. 6, 1991, murder of a 22-year-old friend. Investigators said he used a rifle to kill his friend from a balcony at 58th and Belmar streets in Kingsessing. A witness identified him as the shooter at trial.
But the witness later recanted, his supporters say. And autopsy results show none of the bullets had a downward trajectory — meaning the victim couldn’t have been shot from a balcony, supporters contend. Further, they add, two different calibers of bullets were found in his body; neither came from a rifle, and the different calibers suggest there was more than one shooter.
And other witnesses placed Eric Riddick at least a block away from the murder scene at the time of the shooting, his mother said.
Eric Riddick has been fighting for his freedom pro se, which means he has no attorney and represents himself. Despite innumerable appeals under the Post-Conviction Relief Act appeals, he remains rooted behind bars, most recently at the State Correctional Facility at Chester, his mother said.
In December, President Judge Emeritus John T. Bender of the Pennsylvania Superior Court, complaining about shortcomings of that act, wrote of Eric Riddick: “It is clear to all that it is likely that an innocent man sits behind bars for no better reason than a poorly conceived statute. No system of criminal justice is perfect. However, a system of criminal justice that prevents the correction of obvious errors is easily improved — if only the legislature could see fit to do it.”